How to Be a Strong Friend to Someone Who Is Sick

Most of us know what it’s like to be sick. Whether it’s a serious disease or a temporary illness, you just want it to go away. Until it does, you feel weak, fatigued, unmotivated, and alone, even if there’s someone else around.

Many people won’t ask for help when they’re sick, even though they need support more than ever. They’re embarrassed or feel like they’re burdening someone else, so they stay silent. That’s why it’s up to their friends to step up and help even when they aren’t asked to do so. It’s nothing more than being a good friend.

If you aspire to be that person, you might need a little help getting started. Whatever you do, don’t just throw up your hands and wait for an invitation that may never arrive. Here’s how to be a strong friend to someone who is sick.

Nourish Them


There’s an old debate about whether you starve a cold and feed a fever or vice-versa. But the fact is that often, sick friends don’t have much of an appetite. Since healthy nourishment is good medicine in virtually every situation, that’s an empty space for you to fill.

If you’re a good cook and have time on your hands, home cooking is a fantastic show of support. But don’t feel bad if you have neither the talent nor the time. Instead, order and send wholesome get well soon gifts that feature comfort foods. All your ill friends need to do is heat them up and enjoy. And sending a meal kit allows them to decide when they’re ready to eat.

Of course, drinking plenty of water is standard doctor’s orders. Send your friend a personalized reusable cup to remind them to do so. Or leave a case of their favorite flavored water or electrolyte-laden beverage at their front door.

Getting through any illness is difficult without giving the body the nourishment it needs to fight sickness and disease. Stepping in to help provide those nutrients is a show of strength your ill friends may not have in them. In the words of Hippocrates: “Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.”

Give Them the Runaround


This isn’t about skirting the issue and not directly addressing your friends’ needs. This is about you taking on the task of running errands for them when they’re sick. When people don’t feel well, someone else tackling the runaround relieves a tremendous burden.

Even when friends are ill, the routine of everyday life goes on. There are grocery and pharmacy trips, laundry and dry-cleaning drop-offs and pickups, doctor visits, and kids to transport. If you take charge of these activities, you’ll be providing some much-needed time to rest and recuperate.

You might not have time to take on all the errands your sick friend needs to make. But here’s an opportunity to delegate by organizing other friends to help. Sit down with your ill comrade and develop an errand schedule. Work what you can into your agenda and find volunteers for all the empty slots. And don’t forget to have someone “on call” for last-minute runs.

Your sick friends may have driving prohibitions due to their medications or health conditions. And even placing online orders for delivery can be a struggle when someone’s ill. Put a little gas in the car and do the running around for them.

Encourage Their Recovery


Sometimes, recovery involves some mind over matter. That’s why a little encouragement from you can help sick friends have a more positive attitude. It just might put them on the fast track to recovery.

Sending notes with flowers, rallying text messages, and making considerate phone calls are all good ways to lift spirits. If your friends are coworkers, make sure they don’t feel guilty about being out for a few days. If they’re missing social events, try to alleviate their feelings of being left out. Before the event, schedule a time to visit in person the day or so afterward and share photos you took.

While you’re in their home, wash up dishes or tidy the living room. The joke is that they can return the favor when they’re well to lighten the guilt. Ask them if they want to talk about their symptoms or want your conversation to distract them. Reassure them that others are missing them and wish them a speedy recovery and return to normal life.

Don’t treat your ill friends like children, but understand we all tend to get a little helpless when feeling unwell. Go the extra mile to reassure them that although life doesn’t stop while they’re sick, it isn’t the same without them.

Strong Friends, Stronger Friendships


Being a good friend when everybody’s healthy is easy. Figuring out how to be strong for your friends when they’re sick can be challenging. You aren’t sure what to do. And they may be grumpy and short-tempered because they don’t feel well.

What’s true is that if you wait for sick friends to ask you for help, you may not get any requests. That means they’re feeling awful, helpless, and alone for the duration. It’s your job as a good friend to step up and step in without stepping on their toes. These tips should give you some ideas for the next time you face the challenge of helping under-the-weather pals.

Whatever you do, don’t forget some levity. After all, laughter is indeed the best medicine.